ASO Isn’t SEO – And You Need To Know The Difference

By Mary C. Long Comment

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If you haven’t heard of ASO — or App Store Optimization — it’s time to level up. Why? If you have an app and want to optimize it, you need to focus on mobile – and ASO takes over where SEO leaves off.

We talked to Dave Bell, the CEO and co-found of Gummicube to find out what, specifically, differentiates ASO from SEO.

Looking at the actual algorithms, web SEO relies on an established process that includes ‘on-page’ metadata (i.e. your content, title tags, description, etc.) and then ‘off page’ backlinks that Google uses to validate the relevance of your content/topic/keywords. The more backlinks, the more relevant Google may view your webpage. (But) when you look at App Store Optimization, there is a totally different methodology.

Apple doesn’t look at backlinks or anything outside of the App Store for the purpose of their search algorithm. Instead, it looks to targeted keywords in your app submission (which are vetted by humans to ensure relevancy) and end user reviews. If your metadata isn’t entirely on point, your app’s chances of being found reduce drastically.

Google Play does it a little differently, crawling your description to determine keywords and phrases you’ll rank for (no input from you allowed beyond that), so understanding how to structure that description based on trending search terms is critical. And, Bell tells us, “trends are typically feature-based or application-based, with people looking for:

  • Specific functionality to add to their device
  • Apps that “are similar to” another app (particularly in the games category)
  • Apps that are trending for a short period of time (both high level as well as related to specific categories)”

But that’s not all: Beyond mastering how to position your app, you need to master mobile. Bell cautions marketers against depending on the previously popular tactics like “chart boosting” (buying enough downloads to reach the top of the category level charts) as it no longer provide a return on investment for marketers – “because [as mentioned] the most valuable users are searching for something more specific.”

So how does one ‘work’ ASO? To sum it up, Bell shares the key data points you need to sort out to win on either app platform:

  • Mobile User Behavior– How users behave in the App Stores when selecting which app to download
  • Mobile Search Semantics – How users actually construct their search queries in mobile differs from web
  • Mobile Trends– The actual types of trend within App Store search are different (features or app related)
  • Competitors – The “competitors” competing for keywords/phrases in App Stores differ from the web
  • Search Algorithms – The algorithms used by Apple and Google Play differ from Google Web search (how the data is interpreted)

Sound a bit complex? It is, Bell said:

Going beyond user behavior and search semantics, the concepts of competition and difficulty are also very different in the App Stores. Marketers are competing against other apps (not webpages) for ranking on each targeted keyword or phrase.

So what can you do? Invest in an ASO for Dummies book and make sure you’re not just using SEO tactics for your apps.

Happy App’ing!

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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